I don’t know many facts about ethnic groups in Australia but it seems to me that the percentage of people with Japanese background is greater here than in my hometown. So it would make perfect sense if it would be relatively easy to buy Japanese products here, right? Wrong.
Back home, it took me a 10-minute bus ride to get to a big market where a few stalls had Japanese produce and groceries for sale. There my family and I bought Japanese tubers and veggies, as well as freshly made mochi (rice cakes). Of course there were more markets, supermarkets and even restaurants where you could get produce and okashi (snacks).
I don’t know if I’ve been looking carefully or not, but I haven’t been able to find a good place to buy Japanese stuff from in Sydney. When I started buying my groceries in Foodworks I got excited when I found mochi in the Asian food section. The packaging made them look Japanese but at home I found out they were actually Taiwanese. They were good (and cheap) but different from the stuff I grew up with (mainly because they were processed as opposed to fresh).
I’ve been able to find some Japanese products in Asian grocery stores close to home, but the variety is quite limited. A search in Google a few months ago gave me the name and address of a Japanese convenience store close to my office: Maruyu. I went there one Saturday but it was closed.
Today I decided to try again in my lunch break, as an excuse for a post-feeding walk. Entering the shop made me feel like a kid in Christmas, I wanted to feel my basket with every colourful package on sight, even when I didn’t know what was in most of them.
They sell mostly non-perishable stuff: seaweeds, dried mushrooms, pickles, rice, noodles, sauces, vinegars, condiments, teas, snacks, sweets, etc. They have some cold displays, too, filled with drinks, tofu, miso, dumplings, etc. They also sell food from China and other Asian countries.
Unfortunately, they don’t sell fresh mochi. But at least they sell both the Japanese and the Taiwanese. I bought a package of Japanese green tea mochi to compare with the Taiwanese ones I have at home. I also bought green tea soba noodles (made in NZ) and 10 packages of katsuo bushi (dried and shaved bonito) for miso soup.
The verdict of the mochi comparison? The packaging of the Japanese ones is simpler than this particular brand of Taiwanese mochi (although they do sell ones in transparent bags that also look Japanese).
As expected, the ingredient list is simpler too:
|Green tea paste (sword bean, maltose, sugar, soybean oil, green tea powder), maltose, sugar, glutinous rice power, green tea powder, potato powder, preservative (sorbic acid), food colors: FD&C blue no.1 (E133), FD%C yellow no.5 (E102).||Maltose, sugar, rice flour, red bean, maltitol syrup, green tea, emulsifier (#472b).|
Notice that both contain at least two types of added sugar, but the Taiwanese adds unnecessary food colours (why? green tea is already green…) and starch (why add potato powder on top of glutinous rice powder?). The effect of the added starch is a firmer mochi, which makes it feel less natural (to me, at least).
One interesting thing is the white layer that surrounds the read bean filling in the Japanese mochi. Makes it look more processed than it might be.
The taste test led me to a sad result: both taste highly processed. The Japanese one tastes a bit fresher but not fresh enough.
Finally, I had a look at the nutritional information and, yes, the Japanese mochi is slightly healthier:
|Nutritional info, per 100 g|
|energy||372 kcal||360 kcal|
|protein||1.8 g||8 g|
|total fat||0.12 g||N/A|
|– saturated||372 kcal||360 kcal|
|– trans||0 g||N/A|
|total carbohydrates||88.5 g||84 g|
|– sugars||18 g||N/A|
|– dietary fiber||0 g||N/A|
|sodium||48.7 mg||0 mg|
Back to the shop, I asked about the trading hours and it turns out that they do open on weekends, but from 12 to 6 pm. I was there too early the day that I found it closed.
Maruyu Convenience Store
285 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 0888